Strict Laws are Killing Venues, Music Industry Prepares to Fight Back
This week, more than 100 artists and industry leaders are gathering in Sydney for the Electronic Music Conference. And one of the important topics up for debate is how the music industry will respond to laws that are hurting the live music scene in Sydney.
The prominent entertainment district known as CBD and Kings Cross was hit with new laws last february after two deaths were attributed to alcohol-related violence. The lockout and last drink laws prohibit patrons from entering premises after 1:30am and require businesses to stop alcohol service at 3:00am.
While these laws have reportedly helped to curb violence in the area reducing it by 32%, they have also slowed business to the point where several iconic and decades-old venues have been forced to tragically close.
"When you have a business model that relies on late night trading and you’re not getting it, then its just not feasible to keep it running. The foot traffic in the Cross has dropped significantly," venue owner Raul Gonzales explained to Pulse Radio.
Here are some of the venues that have closed since the lockout laws:
- Hugos Lounge
- Soho Nightclub
- The Backroom
- Q Bar, The Exchange Hotel
- Flinders Hotel
As the government prepares to revisit these laws in February, the music industry is coming together to hopefully propose a compromise. Panelists at EMC agreed the Sydney music industry has not been as conscientious as it could be about working with the government to prevent over-regulation. Policy director of Live Music Office John Wardle asserted during the panel discussion that the government will most likely not entertain the idea of removing them all together.
"If the goal is to remove the lockouts and go back to the way we were, I don't think that's something that's achievable," said John Wardle, policy director of the Live Music Office.
The hope, therefore, is that through an organized campaign launched by the music industry, the government will see the value in exempting music venues that don't have a history of alcohol-related assaults from these laws. Not only do these venues provide jobs, but they play an integral role in the city's culture, economy and tourism.
"This is about rewarding responsible venues that make a cultural contribution to the life of the city," Wardle affirmed during the EMC panel discussion.
While the laws have been lifted on some of the businesses in the district, the Liquor Act limits exemptions only to those that "will be more effective in reducing the risk of alcohol-related violence in or about the declared premises concerned." And some of these exemptions are coming with conditions that restrict any form of entertainment besides poker machines or background music.